Siena (7-23) vs. Marist (10-20)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, March 8, 7:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: MassMutual Center (7,552) -- Springfield, Massachusetts. Television: None. Home Record: Siena 4-10, Marist 6-7. Away Record: Siena 2-12, Marist 3-11. Neutral Record: Siena 1-1, Marist 1-2. Conference Record: Siena 3-9, Marist 6-12. Series Record: Siena leads, 48-23.
GAME NOTES: The 32nd annual Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament gets underway on Friday night, as the ninth-seeded Siena Saints match up against the eighth-seeded Marist Red Foxes in first-round action at the MassMutual Center in Springfield.
Siena, which is second among current members of the league with five conference tournament titles, struggled quite a bit during the 2012-13 regular season as it generated a total of only seven victories, just three in league play. The Saints enter the event riding an eight-game conference skid, although there was an overtime victory slipped in there on Feb. 24 versus Radford in non-conference play.
As for the Red Foxes, they had trouble early on during the league slate, but showed signs of life in recent weeks with three straight wins overall and triumphs in five of the last seven outings in order to generate at least some momentum with the tourney approaching.
These teams split their two regular-season meetings this year, with each winning at home. Marist posted a 79-75 victory in late January, and then the Saints returned the favor last week with another close call, 76-74. With the latest win, Siena boosted its lead in the all-time series to 48-23.
The winner this time around will advance to the quarterfinals on Saturday where they will clash with top-seeded Niagara.
The Saints have a player who has the potential to dominate like no other in the paint in O.D. Anosike, but lately he has been coming up somewhat small, at least when compared to his prior accomplishments. Granted, he is still averaging a double-double with 12.9 points and 11.4 rebounds per contest, but unlike 2011-12 when he was one of the most aggressive interior players in the country, this time around he didn't even make the All-MAAC First Team. While Anosike tries to rule the paint as he has during his college career, Rob Poole (11.4 ppg) and Evan Hymes (10.7 ppg) will be key figures out on the perimeter, having combined to make more than 100 3-pointers, the latter also pacing the program with 105 assists. Anosike's declining play and a number of injuries have made Siena a team that many will likely overlook in this event.
As for the Red Foxes, a team which has never taken home the trophy in this tournament and is just 10-15 in the event over the years, they actually showed some growth down the stretch by closing the regular season with three straight wins and five victories in their final seven outings, thanks to Chavaughn Lewis who paced the program with 16.5 ppg and 61 steals, placing second in both rebounding (5.6 rpg) and assists (80) as well. Like Lewis, the other player to start all 30 games for Marist was Adam Kemp (10.3 ppg) who handles much of the action in the paint (8.7 rpg, 63 blocked shots), but can't seem to get his act together at the free-throw line (.563) and that has taken the entire unit down to only 64.3 percent accuracy at the charity stripe.
As long as Anosike can catch a few breathers in the contest and is supported well enough by his teammates, the Saints have a great shot at moving on.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Siena 69, Marist 66
03/08 10:33:20 ET